Pera

303 Madison Ave. New York, NY 10017(212) 878-6301peranyc.com

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The stars are primarily for the food. The service is actually hit and miss. First time we went it was pretty slow. And by slow, I mean if we didn’t ask for things to be sped along, we’d still probably be there. But the second time we went it was as though they remembered us and redeemed themselves in spades. Hard to say until I go a third time for the tie-breaker.

As for the decor, it’s nice. Simple and elegant, but nothing too lavish either. And the crowd seems to be more business than pleasure. But VERY packed regardless. Not an open table in the place at 6:30pm on a Tuesday.

But forget about all of that, because the moment the bread hits the table, Pera shines. What I mean by that is the bread is like nothing you’ve ever had. Akin to a souffle, it is light and airy and served with crumbled feta that literally melts into the steam of the bread.

The dolma (stuffed grape leaves) are also solid. Made turkish style with currants, the way I like them.

And the dates wrapped in pastirma (Turkish sopressata) were also pretty awesome.

But then, the dark horse rode in. The fried calamari. A dish I’m seldom a fan of, so much so, that when my wife wanted to order it, I rolled my eyes. Well, I wound up eating a lot of crow on this one. And a ton of calamari along with it. It was easily the best I’ve ever had. By a wide margin. Served with hot peppers, chives and sucuk (spicy sausage).

Then for entrees, I had the Lamb Adana, which was solid. But nothing better than it is at other Turkish haunts in the city. That said if you’re craving lamb, I would skip it and go for the lamb “tacos.” HIGHLY recommend. Can’t decide which is more amazing, those or the fried calamari.

Also worthy of note, the salmon entree was excellent, especially considering it’s not a Turkish fish.

Now for the only two misses: I found the okra entree to be a touch bland. And for dessert, the chocolate volcano was just okay- shoulda gone with the Baklava. And I will… Next time.

4 teeth

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Seasonal

132 W 58th St. New York, NY 10019(212) 957-5550seasonalnyc.com

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While Seasonal is not a runaway success and there are many misses to be had on the menu, the highs are so very high that it’s hard to give it just 3 knives.

First off, the amuse bouche was quite good. A creamy truffle soup that even a Soup Nazi could envy.

The breads, however, were a touch on the dry side- but the spreads they served them with made up for it. One red pepper, one green olive, both delicious.

For the apps, please, please, please listen to me on this one. The sweetbreads are INCREDIBLE! Forget that they are glands for just a second and appreciate them for their complex, sweet- almost fried oyster-like brilliance. It far surpassed every other app on the table, including the lobster with poached egg, which only wishes it could die a quick death and be reincarnated as this sweetbread dish.

As for entrees, the schnitzel comes just like it does at Edi & the Wolf, which is very good, but if you’ve had it there, I urge you to forgo it for the Skate. Yes, fish. Not a big “Austrian” dish, but WOW was it amazing! Layered with rich flavors worthy of a red meat dish.

As for the veal cheeks with spaetzle- skip it. It was the weakest entree at the table.

And as for dessert, while the strudel is good, it pales in comparison to Peter Luger’s, which is easily the best apple strudel in the city. That said, the apple pancakes were very good and the far better choice of the two.

As for service, I thought they were quite good. Friendly and attentive.

Decor is also nice, clean and simple- but it’s the layout itself that is kind of a bummer. First, the place is very narrow and when coupled with a long bar that is probably too big for the space it literally makes it so that there really isn’t a truly “nice” table in the entire restaurant. Even the room in the back is windowless and almost claustrophobic.  Fortunately we were with good company and we weren’t facing the bar, but the fact remains we were basically sitting right on top of it..

So, despite Seasonal’s shortcomings, its longcomings? make it definitely worth a visit. Especially if you’re seeing a show in midtown.

4 teeth